Malerkotla is situated on the Ludhiana-Sangrur Road, north of Sangrur. It is connected by road with Ludhiana (43 km) Chandigarh (123 km) Nabha (36 km) and Patiala (62 Km). It has a railway station on the Ludhiana-Jakhal railway line.

General description

The town of Malerkotla was divided into two parts – Maler and Kotla. Maler may have been named after an individual named Malher Singh who is said to have constructed a Kaccha fort here called Malhergarh. The town of  Malher was founded by Sadr-u-din in 1466, an Afghan. A pious man and disciple of Peer Rukha Alam of Multan (Pakistan), he left the Peer and settled at Bhumsi in the remains of the Malhergarh fort. Behlol Lodhi stayed here on way to Delhi and was so impressed with him that on becoming King of Delhi, he married off his daughter Taj to Sadr-u-din and gave him 68 villages in dowry. Around the hut of Sadr-u-din emerged a Basti named Malher after the fort Malhergarh.

The Kotla portion of Malerkotla was established by Bayzid Khan in 1656 in the south of Maler. Malerkotla became an independent kingdom when Aurangzeb was favourably impressed by the military service of Bayzid Khan (d. 1657). Local legend reports that Bayzid saved the Emperor’s life by slaying a charging tiger with a single blow of his sword. In appreciation, the jagir became a riyasat and Bayzid was given the title of Nawab and allowed to build a fortified city within walls with a number of gates which were closed at night. According to one source, the Nawab summoned a Sufi saint, Shah Fazl Chishti, and a Hindu sadhu, Damodar Das, to place the first stone, thereby founding the new city in the spirit of secularism and brotherhood. Although Bayzid himself is not buried in the maqbara, the only remaining burj, or tower, of the boundary wall he built still stands at one corner of the site.

The most famous of Malerkotla’s nawabs, Sher Mohammad Khan, is also the first ruler laid to rest here. The story of Sher Mohammad Khan’s haa da naara, in which he appealed to Aurangzeb to spare the lives of Guru Gobind Singh’s two young sons when they were captured at Sirhind. He declared that their execution sentence was “absolutely against the dictates of Islam and the laws propounded by the founder of Islam.” He went on to declare that if his plea “is deprived of the honour of acceptance, still your Majesty’s humble and devoted servant shall have the consolation of having performed the sacred duty of expressing what was right and just and not having allowed his pen to deviate in the expression of truth.” Upon hearing of the martyrdom of his sons, the Guru inquired if anyone had spoken on their behalf. According to the Mahan Kosh, when told that the Nawab of Malerkotla had raised his voice, the Guru blessed the house of the Nawab, declaring that its “roots shall remain forever green.” This story is the most frequently cited reason for Malerkotla’s history of communal harmony. However, in contrast to his fame, Sher Mohammad Khan’s grave is one of the least ornate ones, without a roof.

The distance between Maler and Kotla was linked by the Mod Bazar in 1901-02 by Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan. It was earlier named Kotla Maler and later on named Maler-Kotla. Malerkotla town was capital of the erstwhile princely State of Malerkotla, prior to the formation of PEPSU. A fair known as Mela Hazrat Sheikh Sadr-u-Din is held in May-June and September-October for one day each in the memory of Sheikh Sadr-u-Din who founded the Malerkotla State during the time of Behlol Lodhi. Other places of tourist importance in Malerkotla are the Sheesh Mahal, residence of the Nawab, and the Jama Masjid.

Special Significance

This town has a significant place in the freedom struggle because of the Namdhari Movement. Baba Ram Singh, the founder of the Kuka Movement, devised a plan to revive the glorious tradition of the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh’s days against the British. The members had to follow a strict code of discipline and were popularly known as Kukas. They used their own means of communication, settled their disputes in their local Panchayats and educated their children in local Pathshalas to avoid the British system. Baba Ram Singh’s increasing popularity made the British take notice and restrictions were imposed on them which only served to popularize the movement even further.

In 1871, they killed some butchers at Amritsar and Raikot for slaughtering cows and selling beef despite repeated protests. For this offence, 4 were hanged and 2 sentenced to transportation for life from Amritsar and in Rajkot, 4 moe were hanged. After that Baba Ram Singh was put under restrictions and asked not to attend the Maghi fair at Muktsar in January 1872. Then the Namdharis planned to attack some butchers at Malerkotla and Maloud and in the process 10 people were killed and seventeen injured. Mr. Cowan, the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana, immediately rounded up all the Kukas. On 17 January 1872, 49 Kukas were blown up by cannon without any trial and a child who caught hold of the beard of Mr. Cowan was cut down by sword. The next day, 16 Kukas were blown up by cannon after a summary trial. A large memorial has been established at Malerkotla along with a school, a hospital and a library in the memory of the 66 Kuka martyrs. A fair is held on January 17 and 18 for two days every year to commemorate the martyrdom of 66 Namdharis during the anti-cow slaughter movement.

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